Practical Nature Of Consecration

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Presentation 10
Presentation 10
Some time ago I visited an art exhibition
and overheard another visitor commenting
on a painting. He said,
“I like it its different”.
We are often attracted to things that are
different not just the kind of things
produced in artists studios or manufactured
in factory units but in the depths of the
human soul. We are attracted to people
when something different from the norm, or
the run of the mill, manifests itself.
God calls his people to a different-ness and
it is this character distinction that draws
others to him and equips the church to
achieve her evangelistic objective.
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The people of God in Nehemiah's day recognised they had failed to live
distinctive lives. They wanted to be different and to this end they decided to
consecrate or separate themselves to God. Now we should note the public
nature of this consecration. The people queued up to have their names
written down v1-27. Why was this so important?
To behave in such a public manner has the effect of burning ones bridges.
Retreat becomes much more difficult. This very public display stored in the
memory banks of our minds reminds us of the stand we have taken for God.
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Of course it's possible to commit oneself to God in
a very quiet way, without anyone knowing. Such a
step of consecration can be very real. However, we
find scripture encouraging believers to 'go public'
in their commitment on a number of occasions.
‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so’ Ps. 107v2
and ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is
Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Rom. 10v9.
God is not in the business of embarrassing us or
of forcing us to violate our essential personality,
nevertheless, this is an issue which we are all
called upon to take seriously. Why?
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One answer is found in the gospels.
Think of Jesus gentle but firm dealing
with the woman, who had been ill with
the issue of blood? She was a woman
of faith, who wanted to remain
anonymous. She believed all she had to
do was stretch out and touch the hem
of Jesus' garment and she would be
healed. When she was all set to slip
away Jesus put on the brakes and
asked, ‘Who touched me?’ Mk.5v31.
Why not let the woman slip away?
Jesus recognised that her faith would
be strengthened as she made a public
profession!
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This incident shows illustrates why it is so
important that our faith and commitment is
something that is out in the public domain.
Among other things it is for our spiritual
safety and has a positive restraining
influence. We are marked as Christ’s men
and women. It will help to keep us straight,
if we recognise that others know that our
lives are committed to God.
This public expression of commitment can
be done in a number of ways. When a
person comes to faith in Christ they will
publicly profess their faith in Christ within
the fellowship of the church and this may
also involve baptism.
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Ministers will sometimes ask their
congregation to stand in their places to
indicate their renewed determination to
follow God.
In earlier generations our forefathers
were encouraged to enter into personal
covenants with God. These would be
written down and kept inside their Bibles
and referred to with the passing of the
years.
The simple point being made here is the
value of having some tangible reminder of
commitment to God. It can stimulate an
on-going commitment.
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The practical nature of the people’s consecration
is seen in v27-31. Any verbal profession which
does not have a corresponding practical
outworking is meaningless. Words are often
cheap. God isn't fooled or flattered, when we
tell him how much we love him, if at the same
time we have not resolved in our hearts and
wills that we intend to regulate our lives in a
manner that will please him. A genuine
consecration will always contain two quite
distinctive elements:
1. A determination to separate ourselves from
sin
2. A separation of ourselves to God.
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Look first at the negative aspect of this
people's consecration. They separated
themselves from the inhabitants of the land
in order to be identified as God's people
v28. In calling a people to himself, God had
called upon them to be holy, distinctive, to
reflect his character and his values in the
way they lived.
This distinctive, holy attractiveness was
intended to act like a magnet drawing the
heathen nations to God. It had an
evangelistic goal! When the people of God
fail to live like that, when they accept rather
than challenge the world's values, then they
will fail in their evangelistic mission.
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This call to holy separateness is not very
fashionable today. One reason for that is a
reaction to distorted models of holy
separateness. It is important to distinguish
between authentic and distorted models
of consecration. The first of the distorted
model might be described as that of
Pharisaic separateness.
Those influenced by it adopt a superior
manner and look down their nose at
others who are not part of their holy
huddle and who struggle with
consecration. They go through life toasting
their spiritual superiority, 'here's to us,
who's like us.'
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The second distorted model is that of monastic
separateness. The world is seen to be such a
wicked place that the exponents of this view
believe that by retreating behind monastic
walls they will secure a place of safety from a
polluted and polluting world. Incidentally, you
do not have to live in a monastery to be
infected with this kind of separateness. Some
Christians do all in their power to withdraw
from the society, while still living in their two
bedroom flat. Jesus commands us to be “in the
world but not of the world”.
We need to be rubbing shoulders with
unbelieving men and women if we are to have
an attractive and salting impact upon society.
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The third distorted model might be described
as a legalistic separateness. This brand of
Christianity is unattractive and narrow. It
reflects a negative attitude to the faith. Its
recurring theme is, “We don't do that!”
Its exponents glory in the fact that they belong
to a “Don't do this religion”.
All sorts of negative, overbearing
interpretations are placed upon God's Word
producing members who are prickly and sour.
Their approach to holiness has been described
by one writer as 'sanctification in vinegar.'
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All of these models a caricature of true
biblical Christianity. In response we are not
to abandon scriptural teaching on
separateness but reaffirm what the Bible
means by it. Clearly there are some things
which the Christian may not do and certain
places he dare not go.
One of the great concerns today is that
many believers don't want to be different
from the world. Many Christians want not
only to be in the world but of it too. At a
time when many out side the church are
looking for a Christianity that is distinctive,
many within the church are bending over
backwards to remove these distinctives.
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Our passage identifies two areas where the people
of God were eager to show their different-ness. The
first concerns marriage cf v30... With good reason
God had told Israel not to marry into the heathen
unbelieving nations around them. It is vitally
important for husband and wife to be pulling
in the same spiritual direction, to have the
same goals, the same motivation and
appetite for the things of God.
Solomon, for all his wisdom, failed to see this
and it was not long before Israel's worship was
contaminated by the idolatrous practices
introduced by his foreign heathen wives.
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Paul in 2 Cor. 6.14 writes, 'Do not be yoked
together with unbelievers'. Such marriages
invariably harm the believer's growth and
fruitfulness of his witness. Nor do they
provide a conducive environment for rearing
children. The child receives contradictory
signals. One parent says, ‘God is important,
follow him’ but the other says, ‘Do not let
God enter your thinking’.
Knowing these dangers there will always be
some who persuade themselves that, “In
their case things will be different! The
person they love will do them no spiritual
harm”. And so they close their ears to the
instruction of God's Word.
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A young Christian woman asked to speak with a minister. He was the fifth
minister she had consulted. She was looking for someone to tell her that
they could see no harm in her marrying a non Christian for he was ‘a good
man’. The minister explained that he was constrained by the teaching of
scripture, in addition years of pastoral experience
could not allow him to offer no such assurance.
The woman stormed out in a temper.
She wanted to be able to set the
agenda for her consecration and
commitment to God. She refused
to place all that was precious to
her on an open hand before God.
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The second way in which the
inhabitants of Jerusalem were eager to
demonstrate their distinctiveness was
in their treatment of the Sabbath v31.
By keeping one day in the week special
Israel would show the surrounding
nations that God was special. He
absorbed their time and attention and
was more important to them than
monetary gain or personal gratification.
Imagine the impact of that on a people
with quite different value systems?
Do others see by the way in which we
use the Lord’s day that God's is special
to us?
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Many people may have had experience of a
legalistic approach to the Lord's day. So that has
been turned into a day to be endured rather than
enjoyed, sitting still for hours in stiff collars - no
whistling, no laughter, no walking out of doors
unless you were going to church etc.
In contrast, there is a liberating use of God's day,
when we enjoy the company of his people,
rehearse God's goodness and feed upon his Word.
We need not fear being different, [though society
seems determined to make it increasingly difficult
for believers. If you want to keep your job you will
work on Sunday. Your child’s place in the school
football team means they play in Sunday morning
matches.] It is costly to be a distinctive people.
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You will notice in v32-39 that it is the
negative aspects of separateness which make
room for the positive. If God's people remain
immersed in the things of the world, there
will simply not be enough time for the
development of all the positive aspects of
worship. It is a simple principle of
displacement.
The people of Nehemiah's day, having dealt
with the negatives then discover they have
time for the previously neglected aspects of
worship. In the process notice that the
church of God becomes the centre, the hub
for the life of the people of God.
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Clearly now the people have time for God
and they sum up their consecration in the
words, “We will not neglect the house of
God”. They are not thinking merely of the
building but of all that takes place in God's
house and the witness to the wider
community which results. At last time was
being made for fellowship, prayer, worship
and service. They gave themselves to these
things with a fresh eagerness of spirit.
Are some of these positive benefits absent
from your life? If so, will you like the people
of Nehemiah's day making room for
spiritual growth.
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